“Domestic policy alone is not enough; a new U.S. foreign policy to tackle climate change is also essential,” argues a Council on Foreign Relations Independent Task Force in Confronting Climate Change: A Strategy for U.S. Foreign Policy
. “Unchecked climate change,” the authors write, “is poised to have wide-ranging and potentially disastrous effects on…human welfare, sensitive ecosystems, and international security.”
The Independent Task Force report comes on the heels of CFR’s widely publicized November 2007 report, “Climate Change and National Security
.” ECSP Director Geoff Dabelko spoke with author Joshua Busby in a January podcast
examining the links between climate and security. In an interview, Task Force Director Michael A. Levi said, “climate change is a global problem that requires a global solution.” Rather than remaining “mired in domestic discussions,” as Levi argues the Bush administration has been, the task force calls for a shift in the way policymakers frame the issue of carbon emissions. “The point of this task force,” said Levi, “was to pull back and put this back where it belongs, in the context of American foreign policy.”
The United States, uniquely positioned to “steer international efforts to confront climate change,” must take a leadership role in advancing global policies, Levi said. Unchecked, American emissions will overwhelm any reductions made by other countries. U.S. policymakers have a valuable opportunity to show that environmental responsibility is consistent with robust economic performance, a concern in both developed and developing countries and a leading impediment to addressing climate change.
However, the report strongly cautions against the United States entering into any global framework to which other large emitters, like China and India, are not willing to adhere. The authors argue that the United States should lead through its domestic policies but use a “wide range of levers” to compel other countries to move in the right direction. The challenge of global climate change calls for a multi-pronged solution. “[J]ust like scientists tell us that no one technology is going to solve the problem, there’s no one diplomatic solution that’s going to solve it,” warned Levi. The challenge, then, is translating broad global concern over climate change into collective, and productive, action.